mushroom and sun-dried tomato bruschetta

We Americans often think that bruschetta is the mixture of tomatoes, garlic, and basil on a slice of toasted bread. Bruschetta, from the Italian word bruscare, meaning to toast or burn, actually refers to the thick slices of grilled bread. Often served as a snack or appetizer, bruschetta is traditionally prepared by rubbing the bread with garlic and drizzling it with olive oil before toasting it over hot coals.  Then the bread is topped with a simple mixture of tomatoes and fresh herbs.  It is an easy way to showcase the excellent quality of freshly-pressed olive oil as well as a way to preserve bread that is beginning to get stale.

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creamy herbed polenta with mushroom ragout

We tend to associate comfort food with winter but this creamy bowl of polenta is also good on a summer evening.  Simple and comforting, it is like sunshine in a bowl.  It is luscious without being heavy and satisfying without being overly rich.  Well-made polenta, with plenty of butter and parmesan cheese, is delicious by itself.  Topped with an earthy mushroom ragout, it’s even better. I served this polenta alongside Grilled Lamb Chops marinated in olive oil, garlic, rosemary, and thyme and a green salad with a simple meyer lemon and olive oil vinaigrette.  The whole combination was hearty, yet still fitting for supper on a warm summer evening. Continue reading

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mongolian beef

Last night, Chinese communities around the world welcomed the Year of the Dragon with festive traditions that were meant to attract good health and prosperity, as well as closer family ties, peace, and harmony in the home.  In honor of the Lunar New Year, I made Mongolian Beef, one of the more popular dishes found in Chinese-American restaurants. It is a simple beef dish typically made with flank steak or tenderloin and stir-fried with scallions in a brown sauce containing many ingredients typically found in Chinese cuisine – oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and Chinese cooking wine, also knows as Shao Xing.  The name, Mongolian Beef, is misleading because none of the ingredients or the method of preparation are drawn from traditional Mongolian cuisine.  Chalk it up to some clever marketing ploy to name this dish in a way that conjures up a “more exotic” type of food. Continue reading